Under the Microscope 2023 – Melody Josserand

Due to the increase of global migration, missing person and unidentified, deceased person cases can have a cross-border impact. Often these cases are difficult to resolve in a national DNA database system. Through collaboration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) have developed the HDID to assist with the identification of deceased non-United States citizens recovered in the United States. Operated by UNTCHI and supported by the FBI’s CODIS software, the HDID enables family references voluntarily contributed by foreign nationals to be compared to genetic information obtained from unidentified, deceased individuals.


Conceptualized in 2018 in response to the challenges encountered by international agencies and non-governmental organizations in identifying deceased individuals recovered along migration routes in the South Western region of the United States, the building of the database was initially slowed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The process of establishing the database and results of recent searches will be discussed.


In her presentation at ISHI 34 this year, Melody will discuss the process of establishing the database and results of recent searches.




What is one key learning that attendees will be able to take back to the lab and implement based on your presentation?

That a resource now exists to assist in the identification of missing migrants using DNA, namely the Humanitarian DNA Database at the UNT Center for Human Identification.



Do you think anything in your presentation will surprise the audience? If so, can you give us a teaser?

The success of the program given the (so far) limited number of participants.



Who in the audience will benefit most from your presentation? If someone was interested in learning more about your topic, do you have recommendations for resources?

Attendees from foreign countries and agencies that are involved in border issues as it relates to missing migrants and unidentified remains.



What inspired you to seek out a career in the forensic field?

Honestly, it was the television show CSI! lol



If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self as you were starting out?

Look for the oddball, niche jobs that stimulate your intellectual curiosity – you’ll never go wrong if you are doing something that interests and excites you.



If you had to pick one thing, what do you enjoy most about your job?

The satisfaction of doing a job that has a real-world impact daily.



If you currently work in the lab, or have in the past, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve gotten DNA from?




If you’ve attended ISHI in the past, what do you most enjoy about coming to the conference? 

Love the opportunities to network and learn from other labs.



What is one item on your bucket list? Have you checked if off yet?

Visit Australia – was able to do that twice so far!



What’s one thing that others may not know about you?

I’m pretty good at Cowboy Mounted Shooting